The Impossible Dream Becomes a Reality

Deborah, at the helm of The Impossible Dream

Over two years ago, we featured mobileWOMAN Deborah Mellen, an avid sailor & a philanthropist who is now sailing the world and educating others about the possibilities for people with disabilities.
Deborah’s story began tragically as many do, when she became paralyzed in her mid-thirties, in Tuscany Italy. Originally from New York, Deborah and her Italian photographer husband, moved to his hometown in Tuscany to experience adventure and hopefully raise their future children there. Unfortunately, this dream was shattered due to a motor vehicle accident. 

Needless to say it was a long journey to recovery for Deborah, requiring many surgeries, support and emotional strength. One activity she found therapeutic and life-saving was being on the water.
“Most of my rehabilitation was done in Miami, Florida and it was there that my surgeon put me in touch with Shake-a-Leg, an organization devoted to bringing the experience of sailing to people of all abilities. I fell in love with the beauty of sailing, the wind, the water, the silence and peace. Water was an element that offered me the physical freedom that I no longer found elsewhere.”
Deborah & her dog, Winter enjoying peace & tranquility
Almost twenty-five years later, she set her sights on a new dream, on a grand scale: to bring this therapeutic experience to others with disabilities around the world. Deborah exemplifies perseverance, hope and altruism. We can learn from her that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and live your passion!

Read about the progress of her journey below, in her own words.

I have been on an amazing journey for the last four years.  In 2013, I went to England and purchased a 60 ft carbon fiber wheelchair accessible catamaran. Her name is Impossible Dream. ( Following, I founded a non-profit organization dedicated to giving people of all abilities the opportunity to benefit from the calming and healing effects that open water provides. For the past three years, Impossible Dream has traveled up and down the East Coast from Miami to Bar Harbor, Maine working with the disabled population, in each port.

This summer, Impossible Dream is on the move again! We had a busy winter at her home base at Miami's Shake a Leg, an adaptive watersports community serving people of all abilities, but summer is when she really gets her sea legs going. This summer, we have been invited to join the fleet of Rendezvous 2017, a transatlantic tall ships regatta. We'll sail with them on June 15th at Sail Boston 2017.

While in Boston we will also be working closely with Spaulding Rehab. We met the wonderful people of Spaulding last year when we were given the opportunity to invite newly injured patients out for a sail on Impossible Dream, with their family members. For many of these patients , it was their first time out of the hospital since their injury.  Getting on the boat, many were apprehensive. As they were deboarding after the 4 hour sail, one of the mothers of a newly injured quadriplegic said to me, "You know, you've raised the bar." For me, this cemented my belief that Impossible Dream betters people's lives and helps the injured and disabled cope with trauma; she raises the bar and helps patients realize an ever widening breath of possibilities.

After Boston, we will accompany the Tall Ships up through Canada and down to Halifax, where the fleet will then cross the ocean. The Impossible Dream will then be continuing back down the East coast, taking more disabled people sailing than ever before! Again we will be working with Mount Sinai Hospital, Christopher Reeve & Dana Foundation, Kessler Foundation, The NYC Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, The Kingston Maritime Museum, Cerebral Palsy of Ulster County, Wounded Warrior Project, BIGVISION and many others.

This year, we are thrilled to have offered crew spots to disabled sailors who will be fulfilling their dreams of ocean sailing! We currently have a roster of 15 sailors, ages 20 through 70, who are eligible to crew on the Dream. Presently, we are seeking financial sponsors for these sailors who will need funding for travel, lodging, and other daily necessities so they can realize their full potential on the sea. Impossible Dream and these sailors are beacons of hope and dignity for the disabled community, changing ideas of what is possible now more than ever.

This project has united communities, broken barriers, inspired many AND is more work than I could have imagined but I love every minute of it! Dreams may seem impossible but can be a reality, if you believe in yourself.

To learn more about Impossible Dream or to donate, please visit
Note: Impossible Dream has 501(c)3 status.

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